IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hillsboro-Roubaix Road Race

Before I start with this race report, I just wanted to share that I was not able to make the final 3 in the voting for Team Evotri. Thanks to all of you who voted, it means a lot to me. But I believe in fate, so I must have better things to do this year than add another team to my ever-growing list of memberships!!

NOW - on to Hillsboro-Roubaix!

I drove with awesome cyclist, Kristen Meshberg and her Flatlandia crew down to the race on Saturday morning. I was a bit concerned we didn't leave ourselves enough time, and as the boys needed to stop every HOUR for a bathroom break, my nervousness deepened. However, conversation with Kristen made the 4 hour trip go by quickly. As we drove, we watched the temperature slowly creep up from the 28 degrees we started at here in Chicago.

It was about 40 degrees when we arrived in Hillsboro, the parking lot already packed with cyclists decked out in their gear. We hurriedly went through registration, picked up our numbers and came back to the car to change and try to sneak in a quick warm up before the race. I wavered on what to race was a 22 mile, 1 loop course with rolling hills, technical turns and cobblestones! The sun was in and out and at the last minute, I decided with the yellow lenses, big neoprene booties and that second pair of wind gloves. Yes, I hate being cold!

All the cyclists were staged, with the women's cat 4 being just before the juniors. This meant all the other racers were before us. That was OK, because they'd only have to pass by us if we started before them, anyway. These roads were narrow. They had some gravel...even on turns. And the cobblestone section - shoot, I was even nervous riding on it in the warmup! There were some parts with big pieces of brick missing. Not fun to ride over!

All the VQ'ers lined up close together and AK discussed a little strategy with us. For all but 4 of us, it was our first road race. Unfortunately we had already lost one of our stronger riders, JC, on a little spill in the warmup that caused a trip to the hospital. Thankfully, she's fine, but we missed her during the race! I really had no idea what to expect and my "plan" was to hang on with the pack for as long as I could. That's it. Not much more strategy than that...I knew these women could kick my a$$.

We start off, and where the adrenaline is pumping, we're ready to go, but we need to follow this pace car out...and we're basically coasting and braking, making it a really sketchy start. I thought to myself, "I really hate drafting off people I never rode with before..." You never know what they're going to do and if they make too quick of a movement, they end up taking you out while they continue to ride on. So there was a lot of pedal...BRAKE....pedal...BRAKE, OK, need to veer out to as not to hit the tire in front of me! The tension was building in my hands and wrists and I wondered how long this would continue.

The field was maybe 50-60, I'm not sure. It was really quiet. Then the pace car started to move and the pace picked up. Those that weren't ready were dropped in a hurry. But surprisingly quickly, the pace settled in and it really didn't feel like a race. We were riding along and I was following some squirrley girl who kept making erratic movements. I wanted to get out from behind her, but I was rather trapped. Bikes in front, to the left, to the right and behind...very close together. Something, as a triathlete, I am not at all used to, even in a training ride. Just stay calm... Next thing I know, squirrley girl starts shaking. Her handlebars jerk to the left and I hear tires sliding...I see her falling...she is just to my right in front. She falls left, hitting the girl DIRECTLY in front of me and I see her start to fall. SH*T!!! Now I have 2 bikes down, right in front of me. I think, "CRAP, I'm going down...where should I steer to make the fall the easiest?" I look at the bike going down and I look at the girl. The scraping of metal on the pavement is terrifying. I decide that the girl would be easier to go I steer just a bit to the left to avoid the bike. Unfortunately, I hit the girl. I clenched my teeth and gripped the handlebars so hard, I swear I put indentations in them. I prepared for the worst, but somehow, I ended up going right over a small portion of her calf and remained upright. I couldn't believe it. It took me a few moments to get my head back in the game. Now I had to pedal hard to catch the main pack.

With my heart rate skyrocketing, I manage to jump on the back of the peleton. The pace was again comfortable and I regained my breath and tried to forget what just happened. I watched a girl take a turn too wide, ride off the road and flip completely over her bike! She got back up, got on the bike and started riding again...I thought, "Holy crap, these are some tough chicks!!" We rode for a little bit, then a sharp turn would come, I'd fall off the back. Pedal like hell to catch the pack. Then a hill, I can't get out of the saddle and the hamstring is hurting...wait to the flat...pedal like hell to catch on to the pack. This happens for most of the race. Any hill or turn and I am dropped like a hot potato. At one point I was dropped and was pedaling hard to get to the pack. I watched them get further and further away and wondered why I was doing this.

Luckily, there were 2 women who passed me. Not being a quitter, I jumped on a wheel and asked if I could ride with them until we caught the pack. Oddly enough, they almost seemed insulted. I was thinking, "Hey ladies, 3 of us taking pulls is easier than 2 of you!" (and if not, I'm just going to draft off the 2 of you WITHOUT taking pulls...your choice!) But we got into a rhythym and started making ground on the pack. It was so energizing, getting closer and closer. It took us what seemed like forever, but we made it and I was fired up. I think we had about 7-8 miles left at that point and I was ready to RIDE! But once we caught up, the pace seemed so slow. I caught my breath and soon became bored. I chatted with teammate LL and asked her if she thought I should attack (like I know what that means). She said, "No, the XXX girls are doing all the work. Enjoy the draft." So I listened. We rode another few minutes and I was like, "Come on, I drove 4 hours to get here, let's shake things up, I want to have some FUN!" So LL advises me to wait until the straight-away (very smart, thank you LL!). We make the turn, I move to the left and take off. I was leading the race for all of about 2 seconds, but WOW, what a rush!! I was caught quickly by girls on other teams, and I wondered if AK and NS were going to be mad at me for screwing up their race. I wanted to be able to bring those 2 up to the front, but it just didn't work that way.

Now the whole peleton passes me and I just jump on the back. The pace slows again and I want to talk to AK to ask her what to do. I have no idea what I'm doing, I know I can't win, so I just want to help my teammates. Hanging on the back of the pack is too easy...there has to be more to this. I politely move up next to AK and try to ask her to tell me what to do. I can see by her face that she's not working hard, but she's thinking about the next move. I wished we had those things in our helmets that would allow us to talk to each other...the wind was strong and it was difficult to hear. I saw her smile and say "This is it, here we go!" I look up and there's this big hill. You're kidding, you want to attack on the hill? As much as I'd love to, my hamstring says no and the whole group passes me by up the hill. I struggle up the hill and get a little cheer from some VQers in the feed zone...then it becomes flat and I pedal like hell...but there is no more "peleton". Everyone is spread out and it's every man (woman) for himself (herself)! Here come the cobbles...yikes, I hate we go and I feel like I'm in last place, just chasing all those women into the finish. There were 2 quick turns, so I don't even have any idea how far they are ahead of me, I just know I'm close to the finish, so I pedal as hard as I can. I crank up the gears and just push...head down!

Ah the FINISH LINE! I believe I was redlining from the time AK said to attack, and to stop pedaling felt wonderful. I have no idea how I placed, but I do believe I was in the top half of the group. Two of my teammates finished really well, 3rd and 5th! EXCITING! This was such an educational experience for me. It is obvious where my weaknesses are I hope to work on those for the next race. There is nothing that can describe the just have to get out and do one of these for yourself!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Thanks to everyone who placed a vote for me to make team Evotri. Many of you have asked how it turned out and, well, I don't know yet. Because of problems with the voting link (which some of you experienced), they extended the vote for one more week. So I won't know for a few more days.

My "500 word entry" is the previous post. Evotri wanted an "entry" to describe my passion for the sport and describe how I give back to the endurance sport community. If you haven't voted yet, it's not too late! Just click on the link below. Be sure to copy my url ( so you can enter it in the subject line of the email to Evotri. I'll be sure to let you know if I "get the call."

Thanks for reading! If you think I should be the next fully-sponsored member of Team Evotri, please write down the URL of this web site and have it ready for voting when you click the EVOTE button below. Thank you!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Making the Team: 2008

Those of you who have been reading this blog know my commitment to the sport and my involvement in giving back to the endurance community. It’s a part of who I am and how I live. I'm writing this post to request your vote to be selected for Team Evotri. Please help me in this quest.

I am dedicated to the sport. Five days a week my alarm goes off before 4am in order for me to get in my first workout of the day before heading off to work. I treat my workouts seriously and nearly every workout of my plan is followed to the letter. Each year, I try to focus on improving some area of triathlon in hopes of developing consistent overall improvement from year to year.

Because I’ve benefited so much from the sport, I have become very involved in encouraging others to attempt their first triathlon as well as volunteering. I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer at Ironman Wisconsin where I was able to help the pro women and countless age-groupers through T1!

For the past 5 years, I’ve participated in the Chicago Marathon as either a competitor or as a volunteer.

Additionally, I’ve volunteered for several years as a CARA Marathon pace group leader, a training program dedicated to helping people complete their first marathon or improving on their last one.

For the past 3 years, I’ve been the Team Captain of the Chicago Triathlon Luna Chix. The mission of the team is two-fold: To encourage women to get out and play and become active while raising money for the Breast Cancer Fund. This volunteer group has organized and implemented a variety of events to benefit the endurance community. These events include a weekly bike ride, transition clinic, bike maintenance clinic and brick workouts.

One of my newest volunteer activities is coaching the swim workouts for the south branch of the Multisport Madness Triathlon club. Since January, I’ve been sharing the swim coaching responsibilities of this club and it has been fun and rewarding to watch these triathletes improve their swimming skills.

Triathlon has changed my life and I cannot imagine myself not being involved in the sport. From participating to volunteering, I enjoy being around the types of people that like to push themselves to the limit and achieve new goals. These people know how to work hard and have fun. A tough workout is exhilarating and gives you a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. And doing that workout with the right people makes all the difference! During the group workouts, I’m usually the one talking a lot, making jokes and trying to keep everyone engaged.

The mission of Team EvoTri is to challenge themselves and others to live a healthy and active lifestyle through endurance sports. Without knowing it, I have been fworking that mission. Being selected as a member of EvoTri will help me achieve my goals and be able to pass on what I learn to the ever-growing triathlon community.
Thanks for reading! If you think I should be the next fully-sponsored member of Team Evotri, please write down the URL of this web site and have it ready for voting when you click the EVOTE button below. Thank you!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Solvang Training Camp - Day 4

Oh my gosh...I was in such a hurry to end that last post, I forgot one of the most exciting parts of the trip!!!! So we were at dinner, everyone was eating, chatting amongst themselves. Without a word, Robbie Ventura walks in the conference room with....FLOYD LANDIS! The applause started and grew loud. It continued for about a minute, then people began to stand up and clap louder. Floyd was now standing in front of the room with his back up against the wall and he had this childish grin on his face, looking somewhat embarrassed. The applause lasted for at least 5 minutes. Then Robbie says, "OK, Floyd will have more to say later," and dinner continued. At the end of the dinner, there was a rather uncomfortable Q&A with the campers asking all kinds of questions on the status, if he's riding, etc. Can't believe I forgot to put that in the last post.

Now we're on Day 4. This was the Santa Rosa Road Pack Ride. Listed as a recovery ride, we were going to practice bridging efforts, single and double pacelining and racing tactics. Again, it was cool in the morning and I was layered up. This was getting to be a nice routine. The pace of this ride started out really slow and I didn't mind. We practiced a lot of the pacelining that has been talked about. Even though you hear what you're supposed to do/say when something is going on in a ride, it's a whole other story to actually do or say those things during the ride. I was chastized for giving a signal with the wrong hand. The more you ride with the same people, the more you're able to predict what they're going to do or how they react to a situation (like a pothole).

There was one squirrely rider I didn't particularly enjoy riding behind. He was a strong rider, but not very predictable. I also noticed that he didn't like riding in the group. Most often, he could be found riding 200+ yards ahead of the group. I guess he just liked it that way. I was able to catch a lot of scenery on this ride and really listen to what the coaches had to say in regards to pack riding and technique. I was fortunate to have one of the mechanics, who lives just outside of Solvang, on this ride. He taught me a LOT about descending...this info would have been helpful yesterday is what I was thinking! But it was great info and I was able to practice it a bit during this ride. Though this was a "recovery" ride, there were still some challenging hills scattered throughout the ride.

We were told there was a short race included in this ride. Somewhere during the ride, there was going to be a cone or marker...then it would be a 2K race. Winner accumulates points for their team. I had no idea what to expect. We're all riding along when someone notices a 2K mark on the road. The pack takes off and I pump hard to stay with. I find a very nice draft behind two of the men in the group and I'm quite comfortable. I think to myself, "this is easy, I can sit here and conserve and make a surge at the end!" And my plan would've been perfect had there not been a hill just around the corner! Within the blink of an eye, the road went on an incline and the pack dropped me like a hot potato. The race ended on an uphill, so I never was able to catch up. Guess we know what my weakness is! Though it was short and sweet and I didn't manage to score any points for my team, it was one of my favorite parts of camp. It gave me confidence that I could jump off the line with stronger cyclists and pointed out where my huge downfall is. It was exhilarating.

On the ride back, several of us pushed the pace a little. It was a bit tougher than the "2 of 10" effort level outlined in our plan, but I was having a good time and I was really working on staying with the group on all the uphills. This is difficult to do without getting out of the saddle, but I tried my best. I was also trying to work in the pointers on going downhill and they seemed to make me more relaxed and comfortable on the descents.

We were back at the hotel early today and I had about 15 minutes to change and get ready to go to the pool. Not as many people went for the swim today, but I still had 2 other people in my lane. We did an excellent set of descending 100s and I felt really strong. We were only able to get in about 2500 yards today and then we had to get back for a Functional Training session.

Functional Training, as defined on the Vision Quest website is: Functional training (FT) focuses on the development and maintenance of core body-strength, agility, and flexibility—areas often overlooked by endurance athletes. These workouts are designed to enhance cycling, swimming, and running performance by helping athletes develop the strength they need to maintain proper form and thus maximize efficiency. We had Gardie Jackson lead this session and it was TOUGH! We held the session outdoors in the parking lot and it was beautiful outside. However, within minutes, we were all sweating and struggling to perform the exercises correctly.

I had about 30 minutes before I had to pile in the van for my second and final massage. I would be sure NOT to go to the same lady I did the first day! This massage was great. He worked my hamstring quite a bit and I felt very comfortable when he was finished. Upon arriving back to the hotel, I was just in time for YOGA class. Now it was cool outside, so we held this class on the deck around the indoor pool. It was nice in there...a little humid, helping you to stretch your muscles just that little bit more. Gardie again led this session and the guy can turn himself into a pretzel!

Once again, the day went by with so much activity that there really was no "down" time. The camp is now more than half way over and I haven't even had time to check out any of the tiny downtown Solvang area. A few of us went to a wine bar for about 30 minutes before dinner, but even that felt rushed. We had dinner, an update on team point standings and told stories of the day. The next day was going to be a metric century!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Solvang Training Camp - Day 3

These entries are going to have to get shorter! I just can't find the time to do this!!

OK, let's see - Day 3 - Mount Figueroa. This was slated to be the 2nd toughest day of the camp. We were climbing Mt. Figueroa which touts an 11.5 mile climb at an average 7% grade. What I didn't mention in my last post (because I was running out of time) is that when they were going over the agenda for today's ride, this brutal climb was the talk of the evening. People just kept saying how tough it was and that if you just stay clipped in and just keep moving the pedals, you'll be OK. Once you stop, you'd pretty much be done. For 11 miles?? Are you kidding me?

I woke that morning with a big lump in my throat. I did not want to ride. I was terrified. What if I couldn't make it up this mountain? Some of you may know this, but hills (especially mountains) are not my friends. Yes, yes, I need to make them my friends. This was why I came to camp, right??!?? Now, in Chicago, what we call hills are laughable compared to the hills and MOUNTAINS of California. What kept coming back to my mind was the race I did 2 years ago - Wildflower in San Luis Obispo. This half ironman started out with a terrible climb, but about half way through the ride, there's this climb they affectionately call "Nasty Grade". It was absolutely brutal. It's probably the reason I have no desire to go back and do that race. I remember just chugging up the hill for what seemed like forever (I think it was about 40 minutes), sweat pouring off me and just cranking on those pedals wishing for it to be over.

I shuddered to think of what an 11.5 mile climb was going to feel like. My roommate was also not feeling very confident about the whole ordeal. All the talk about it from the night before had us sick to our stomachs. We ate breakfast and headed out to the bikes. The experienced cyclists were talking, laughing, happy to be getting out for a third day in a row. I very quietly put my bag in the SAG vehicle and prepared my bike for the day's ride. "I don't want to do this, I don't want to do this" just kept running through my head. The morning was again, very chilly, but the SAG vehicles were going to meet us just before the start of the climb so we could take off the arm warmers, leg warmers, cloves, hats, etc. With all that climbing, we were going to get pretty toasty.

The groups started in a staggered fashion - 5 minutes apart - then we were to all meet at the start of the climb. Robbie Ventura was starting out this ride with us today and he had a way of taking my mind off the challenge at hand. Again, in the first 15 minutes of the ride, I dropped a water bottle. I guess having 2 pairs of gloves on makes it a little difficult to maneuver that bottle back into the cage! Thankfully, no one behind me hit it, so we just moved on. The 15 miles or so out to the start of the mountain was just beautiful. Very little traffic and the pace was easy enough that it actually gave me time to look around. It was easy to see why people would want to live there.

So now we get to the start of the climb. Every one started peeling off layers, but I had a bigger problem. I needed a bathroom break. Unfortunately, we were in the middle of nowhere, so I just had to ride up the road a little bit, get out of sight and go along the side of the road. (this pretty much happened every day of the rest of the camp) When you gotta go, you gotta go. I thought of my friend Bridgitt...she has no problems with this sort of thing.

The other groups started riding up within a couple of minutes of each other and again, organized chaos as cyclists searched for their bags in the appropriate SAG vehicle to put their extra clothes inside and grab whatever nutrition they thought they'd need during the ride. We filled water bottles and Gatorade bottles. Dave Noda was taking videos.

The groups lined up, fastest in the front, slowest in the back. I went to the back. The goal of today was not to do the climb fast, it was just to do the climb. I was extremely nervous about the hamstring because going uphill hurts. I did wrap the hamstring and put on compression shorts under my cycling shorts, just as I did every other day of the camp, but I was still scared about tearing it more or undoing all the progress I've made in the last 2 months. I promised myself I would NOT get out of the saddle. Yes, it sounds crazy, but I knew if I could stay in the saddle, I would save the hamstring. This is not a's just a ride I need to finish.

I lined up with a couple other women who I hoped to try and ride with today...11.5 miles is a long way to ride uphill alone. It was time to go and the fast people were off (Gordo, Gardie, Justin, Matt and several of the VQers). Within seconds, they were out of sight. Also within seconds, I found myself in my lowest gear! Wow, it didn't take too long for the incline to start!! I was now at the very back of the group. I think there was 1 guy behind me (he had a flat)!

I was riding next to Heather, my roommate for the trip, and we started talking. The road was a slow, steady incline, but we soon got into a rhythym and started talking. We talked about her upcoming Ironman, our spouses, our career made the time pass. We were both pushing each other, but not really racing. Just a smooth, steady climb to the top! I can't even remember how far we were into the ride, but the road became muddy. Not just dirt covered, but MUD! I guess there was quite a bit of rain the week before we arrived and this section of the road had not dried yet. Uphill and mud is not a good combination! If you didn't have the gearing right, you'd start spinning in the mud, losing traction, and go down. YIKES! I started slipping through the first patch of mud. Then I could see Robbie Ventura, standing at the side of the road, on a corner, taking pictures and yelling to us to get to the right. Apparently, the right side of the road at this point was dryer and easier to ride up. I saw some big ruts I'd have to get over, so I stayed on my path. My roommate crossed over easily. Robbie's still yelling at me to get to the I turned my front wheel and tried to ride over the big ruts. Uh oh!!

I lost control of the bike. The ruts were deep enough to turn my wheel for me, about a 90 degree angle to the right...I was headed off the side of the road. I braced myself. I hit a small embankment on the side of the road and flipped over the handlebars landing on my right shoulder. My right side now is pretty much covered in mud, as is the right side of my handlebars. But I was uninjured and I popped up, picked up my bike and started walking it up the hill to find a place without the deep mud so I could try to get started riding again. I watched my roommate ride off up the hill and now I was left to ride alone. Robbie came over to see that I was OK, and I was just fine...he was nice enough not to laugh.

I got to a somewhat flat spot to try and get back on the bike. It was tough, but I did it and tried to clip in. I couldn't do it. Neither one of my feet would clip in. Apparently, I had gotten so much mud all trapped in my cleats, I couldn't get my shoes to clip onto the pedals. One guy behind me saw what was happening. He warned me to get off and fix it now because I'd never be able to make it up the rest of the hill without being clipped in. I think we were still less than half way at this point. Figuring he was probably right, I got off the bike to try and clean off the cleats. Robbie Ventura rides up and asks me what's going on. I explain it to him and he promptly asks for my water bottle and squirts my right cleat to flush it out. I still can't clip in. He does it again...this goes on for about 4 times then he finally gets off his bike, reaches down and forces my right foot onto the pedal. He then looks at me and says, "now DON'T unclip that foot!" No problem, Robbie. At this point, I don't think it WILL come unclipped! Robbie rides off (making it look unbelievably easy) and I'm on my way again. Left foot still won't clip in, but I keep playing with it. I didn't want to waste any more time....everyone had ridden off without me.

Now was the hard part. I could see no one in front of me and no one behind me. I just kept pedaling steadily, though not going very fast. I looked down to check my mph and...UH OH! No Power Tap head. Sh*t! It must've fallen off when I flipped over my bike. I thought about going back to get it...that was about 20-30 minutes ago. I then decided that to ride back to try and find it then go back and continue up the hill would take too long. I hoped that after the ride, someone with a car would drive me back to the spot where I fell so we could go look for it. I just bought this 3 weeks ago and it's not so cheap to replace! Now I was bummed because I just lost all my data for the day's ride. We were entering all our data for this contest based on KJs, winner to be announced the last night. Since I just lost all my information, there was now no way I could win. Well doesn't this just SUCK!

I kept thinking about the lost Power Tap head for the next 20 minutes or so. I would look ahead and see the windy, uphill road carved into the side of the mountain. I kept thinking to myself, "we're riding up THAT??" But by the time I got to the part I was looking at, it didn't feel any harder to ride up than what I was already doing. I could see a biker or two up in the distance and set my sights on trying to catch up. It was perfectly silent out there, the only sound was my heavy breathing to continue uphill. The wind was non-existent. The sun was bright, but not overwhelmingly hot. I was sweating, but I've ridden in much worse. Maybe it was the lack of humidity, but temperature-wise, I was comfortable. Climbing, climbing...ok, passing a guy. I try to make small conversation with him, but we're both breathing much too heavily for anything more than a couple of short words. I keep going and finally get to pass another guy. I think to myself, "Woo hoo, I am not last!" I wonder how long it is until we finish.

Pedaling, pedaling, I now see my roommate up ahead. She seems to be looking very comfortable and strong. One of the coaches, Dan, comes back and rides with me for a few minutes. He graciously gives me some of the water out of his bottle ( I had none left since Robbie cleaned my cleat out with it). I was really, really thirsty. Dan coaches me along, tells me I look strong and gives me a few pointers about climbing. He came at just the right moment when I started to doubt myself and wonder if I was ever going to make it to the top. He has such a positive, friendly attitude and it was contagious. He was only with me a couple of minutes, I explained to him what happened with my Power Tap and he said he'd talk to the SAG guys to see if someone could swing back and look for it. I was hopeful they'd find it.

I kept climbing...caught up to my roommate, we chatted for a bit, and I think we had just 3 miles to go. It was tough, but I had paced myself well. Once again on the streets were painted with the 2K, 1K, 500m and then 200m marks. I just kept on grinding out the pedals and then could hear the voices at the top of the hill. When you're out in the middle of nowhere and it's so quiet, the voices travel. So they always sound much closer than they are! You feel like you're pedaling forever after you start hearing them, but they slowly get louder and louder until you can finally see someone up there, waiting to cheer you in.

I think Dave Noda was up there, taking pictures and videos. It was awesome to reach the top. I was so proud of myself I nearly teared up. I made it. It took FOREVER, but I made it. My roommate then reached the top and I congratulated her. We were so nervous coming into this ride and now we were both exhilarated. I filtered through the bags laid out so I could put on some clothes. I hear the descent is very, very cold. We all gathered for a group picture at the top and then several of us were preparing to ride down. I went to the water bottles and began to work on that left cleat that I never really was able to clip in. Oh - yeah, I also had to unclip my right foot using my was in there so tight! I drank a ton of water, maybe too much, but I knew I was dehydrated. I filled my water bottles and prepared for the descent.

I won't go into a lot of details, as this post is already too long, but the descent was terrifying. I don't know what was harder, the uphill or downhill. It was scary fast and my hands and fingers ached from keeping pressure on the brakes the entire way. The road was rough and had potholes in spots and shaded. If you hit a pothole while you're flying downhill, you're pretty much toast and I was a nervous wreck. I was definitely one of the last people on the downhill, perhaps too cautious. I did learn later that someone flatted going downhill and took a nasty crash. I was happy to have not heard that before I attempted the descent.

The rest of the ride was nice, but hurt as my legs were wiped out. I got back to the hotel, took a shower and headed out for the "Skills and Drills" instruction. We rode out to a school parking lot where we were challenged with a variety of things - picking a water bottle up from the ground, riding in a small circle several times without putting a foot down, figure 8s, 90 degree turns and turning to look back without veering off the side of the road. All good things to know and they're tougher than they seem.

Dinner was shortly after that...with a recap of the day and the agenda for the following day. I was happy that the next day was scheduled to be a recovery ride!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Solvang Training Camp - Day 2

Day 2 - Drum Canyon Time Trial. This ride started out with an easy (well, OK, it wasn't totally easy) ride, maybe 15 miles, to the start of the time trial. It was cold out for the start of the ride, maybe 40 degrees and very cold in the shade. Once I stepped into the sunshine, it wasn't too bad. Each camper was given a bag to put in the SAG (support and gear) vehicles. These bags could include extra clothes, nutrition and whatever else you thought you might need throughout the ride. Since I was wearing nearly every piece of clothing I brought, I put a couple of packages of Luna Moons and a Clif Bar in my bag and proceeded to throw it in my designated van. I felt very awkward when I got on my bike. This is not unusual, since I hadn't been on my bike outdoors since November. I felt a little shaky and riding in a group of people I wasn't used to riding with made me quite uneasy. I dropped a water bottle within the first 15 minutes of the ride. Thankfully, no one in the group hit it and we continued on.

We got to the start of this time trial and I was told it was flat for the first couple of miles and then it was uphill for the last 3 miles. The key (or so I heard) was to not blast out too fast because you'd be dying by the end of it. All the groups met up and the SAG vehicles pulled up. I was quite toasty now and seeing as this was going to be a hard effort, I stripped down to just a jersey and shorts. I even switched to half-finger gloves, so it must've been warming up! I saw one of the more experienced cyclists also putting both his water bottles in his SAG bag. Said he didn't need the extra weight. I didn't think a water bottle was going to make a difference, but I took one out and left one on the bike. The campers were swarmed around the back of the van, stuffing clothes into their bags and bananas and Clif Bars in their mouths. I put my stuff in the bag and threw it in the van as fast as I could. It was organized chaos and I wanted to get away from it as fast as I could.

I got to the start line where one of our support crew stood there with a watch, starting cyclists about every 20 seconds. The rep from Saris was at the front of the line coaching us through resetting our Power Taps so we could accurately record the needed information (average watts, time and kjs). I was happy that I had attended his talk the day before because I knew how to reset my info.

Before I could even get nervous about the ride, it was my turn. I took off but made sure not to overexert myself in the first couple of miles. I can also tell you that it didn't feel all that "flat" to me. I was passed more times than I care to recall, and then the uphill started. I down shifted. Then again...and again...soon I was in my lowest gear and I had brought a 12-27. You've got to be kidding me! I was going so slow! I checked my rear tire several times...I was sure it was flat. Nope. That's just me going slow. Passed again...and again...I stop counting the dudes passing me. The road winds and, in true IMWI fashion, around every curve, it goes uphill even more. I start to wonder if this is longer than 5 miles because it sure is taking me a very long time to ride this! (for the record, everyone went under 30 minutes) This was taking FOREVER! Sweat was pouring down my face and I was so happy I took off all those extra clothes. It was so quiet out there, I could hear myself breathing loudly with each pedal stroke. It was extremely difficult not to get up out of the saddle, but I didn't want to further damage the hamstring.

Finally, there was a mark on the road indicating that I had just 2K left. What felt like a half our later was a 1K mark. Jeez, how much further is 1K? Then I could hear a cow bell and Robbie yelling and cheering people to the finish. Sounded like it was just around the corner. Up, up and yet further up the road was going. There were hairpin turns and I could hear the voices, but come ON ALREADY, where ARE THESE GUYS!?? How much further? Just as the road began to get steeper, I made another turn and I could see Robbie Ventura standing in the middle of the road. He would start yelling the names of the cyclists as they got close to the end.

The finish was rather uneventful because it ended on a slight uphill, so no one came flying through. There was a small collection of cyclists about 200 yards up the road discussing the ride and comparing wattage. I slowly rode past them to begin the descent. We were warned the night before that the descent was fast and dangerous. The road was rough. There were many potholes and lots of shade on the road so, in many cases, you couldn't see the pothole until you were just about to ride through it. They say not to be tense as you ride down, but that was near impossible. My hands were on the brakes almost the entire descent. Any time I took one hand off, just to stop it from cramping, I picked up too much speed, got scared and had to put my hand back on the brakes again. Many of the more experienced cyclists flew right past me, sometimes scaring the crap out of me not just because they were going so fast, but they came a little too close.

My hands ached by the time I got to the bottom. The SAG vehicles were down there waiting for us so I put my extra water bottle back in, grabbed something to eat and went back to my bike and waited for the rest of the group to join us. We were to finish with an easy ride home which I didn't find so easy. The group took several stops along the way to let everyone catch up. It was now pretty warm outside and the scenery was beautiful. All of us were happy to be outside on our bikes!

As soon as we got back to the hotel, I dropped my bike on the designated rack. I had just 10 minutes to go up to my room, put my swimsuit on and jump in the van for the swim workout. It was now 12:45pm. The swim was crazy. There were about 20 of us packed into 3 lanes. I ended up getting into a lane that was a little too fast for me, but it felt nice to try and stretch out after that tough ride. When the swim was over, we weren't even given enough time to shower and we were being hustled back into the van.

Back at the hotel, I got out of one van and into another to be carted over to my massage. (I will write a whole other entry on the massage!!) A group of us got our massages and got back to the hotel. It was now after 4pm - the cut off time for entering all our ride information!! I quickly logged in and uploaded my info from the day.

I then washed all the cycling clothes I had worn that day and took a quick shower. Then it was time for dinner. The day flew by and there was absolutely no down-time. I hoped the rest of the camp wasn't going to be quite as hectic. The dinner was in the same room as the first night, again, buffet style. There was a re-cap of the day, a small presentation and then an overview of the next day's events. I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the dinner/meeting. We had a brutal day in store for us and I fell asleep the instant my head hit the pillow.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Solvang Training Camp - Day 1

I went into this camp thinking "we're not riding 100 miles a day, what am I going to do with all my down time?" I couldn't have been more off in my thinking.

I arrived at the Santa Barbara airport with some other campers in the early afternoon on Monday. We had to wait a couple of hours for someone to come and pick us up to drive us to Solvang. The time seemed to fly while we were waiting because the campers got to know each other, some of us were first-time campers, others were returning campers. It also helped that it was in the low 70's so as we stood out on the curb chatting, we were taking in all the fresh air and sunshine.

The drive to our hotel was beautiful and sort of intimidating. The hills in that part of the country are like nothing we can see here in the midwest. Even the IMWI or Horribly Hilly courses do not compare with the hilly and rolling terrain near Solvang. I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, a group of cyclists was taking off for an unorganized ride. There was nothing planned for a ride this day because most campers were just arriving this day. I hoped I could get into my room, put on some cycling clothes and get out for a ride before it got too cool and dark outside. I went to the hotel lobby to wait in line to check in. I was handed a Camp Guide and a list of all the attending campers. In total, there were about 65 of us, including campers and coaches.

I dragged my overstuffed suitcase up a flight of stairs to my room and I noticed my roommate had already checked in, but was not in the room. She had already staked her claim to one side of the bathroom sink and placed her stuff near one of the beds. The hotel was nice with a faux fireplace and flat screen television in each room. During the whole trip, that television was not turned on one time.

I rummaged through my suitcase to find my bike pedals. I ran downstairs to the mechanics' trailer to ask them to put the pedals back on my bike. I found my bike easily on one of the racks they had set up in the parking lot. I looked it over quickly and it seems to have made the trip to Solvang with no incidents. A couple of VQ coaches had driven the bikes out to Solvang in a large rental van. The very thought of my bike squeezed in there and bouncing around with other bikes was a bit nerve-wracking. I was thankful my bike is titanium...holds up to just about anything.

One of the mechanics put the pedals on and I looked around and there really wasn't anyone else to ride with. The other campers that came in with me talked about a ride, but just listening to them, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up. I was looking for another female camper to head out with, but the women campers were few and far between. I was bummed I took such a late flight, then decided there would be plenty of biking to do this week, so I shouldn't worry about it.

I went to my room and unpacked some of my things and flipped through the Camp Guide to get an idea of what was in store for us. On paper, nothing looked that difficult. The agendas seemed short and I tried to plan out what activities I would attend. I noticed there was a talk on "Intro to PowerTap" happening in just 10 minutes, so I once again rummaged through my big suitcase to find the PowerTap and head down by the mechanics' trailer to educate myself on how to work this device.

Though I was one of the first 2 campers to show up for this talk, other campers wandered over and I think about 10 of us were there for the presentation. There was a representative from Saris who was very knowledgeable and walked us through set up, display, setting intervals and basically answered any question we had. It was extremely helpful for me, because I never even read my PowerTap manual. I went back to my room, where my roommate returned from her ride (oh, was I jealous). We talked a little, and then it was time for dinner.

Dinner was in a large conference center set up in tables of 8 or 10. The food was set up buffet-style just outside the doors of the conference center, outside. It was getting rather cool outside and I wondered how the temperature would be in the morning for our first ride. As the campers and coaches filed in the conference center with their plate of food, the volume of voices steadily increased. The excitement was in the air and people were getting to know each other.

About half way through dinner, Robbie Ventura got up and put an agenda, projected from a computer, up on a screen (well, it was a wall, but what's the difference?) He welcomed us and gave us a quick over view of the camp. We were assigned to pre-arranged teams, which would compete for points throughout the camp. Another coach came up and discussed safety protocol. Another one came up to talk about logistics and other basic frequently asked questions. Our teams then broke out to other areas to create a team name and practice pacelining. I've never practiced pacelining on foot, but I didn't have a whole lot of pacelining experience, so I was trying to learn what was to be expected when we got out on our bikes the next day.

Cyclists are very particular about the way they ride and if you don't follow the rules, you are opening yourself up to be yelled and screamed at. Most of the time, those yells and screams aren't meant the way they come out, but it makes you feel like crap when it happens. Cyclists also have a very distinct "we" vs. "they" mentality. Know who the "they" are? Triathletes. According to many cyclists, triathletes are terrible bikers and we have no idea what we're doing.

And in this very first breakout, one of the cyclists spoke up and said, "OK, who here are the triathletes?" Many of us raised our hands. He then proceeded to say, "Alright, all you guys stay in the back and try not to screw up our ride." I rolled my eyes. This guy hasn't seen a single one of us ride, but he's already got us "screwing" up "his" ride. Unbelievable. I wonder if he realizes how much of an a-hole he sounds like. Probably not.

We went back in the conference center where the teams introduced their names. Robbie then got up and went over how the points would be distributed. Most of that was run through so quickly, it was confusing and we were all looking at each other like, "What did he just say?" But it wasn't a big deal because we were all just excited to be out there to ride for the week. Two of the four teams had the option to sign up for massages the next day. I had to quickly review the agenda to make sure I didn't schedule the massage over one of the activities I wanted to partake in. Then I just had to hope that time slot was available by the time I got to the sign-up sheet!

Each day, we were to upload ride information into the web portal. You can check out the portal by clicking on the "badge" here on the right-hand side of my blog. Or you can go to This site was put up to house all our reports, ride data, pictures, videos and messages regarding the camp. We were to log on to this site every day to keep abreast of new information and just stay connected to the other campers. Very cool site.
Some of the information we were to upload each day included time rode, miles, KJs, average watts, max watts, rider of the day, quote of the day and a few other things that I can't remember at the moment. This information needed to be completed each day by 4pm. All this information was then collected and points distributed via some formula. There were 2 competitions - the team competition and the individual camper competition. Again, not sure how all this was computed, but we were told that it evened things out, so one of the weakest cyclists could still compete with the best cyclist in the camp.

By the end of all this, we were quite exhausted. It was about 10pm CA time, which is midnight Chicago time and I had gotten up at 5am that morning. I was anxious to get to bed and get some sleep. The first day was the time trial (most of it uphill) which would determine what groups we'd ride in. Once back in the room, I set my alarm and fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Return from Solvang

Got back into town very late last night from Solvang. I took my laptop to camp thinking that I'd be able to update you all each day on the happenings in camp, but that obviously didn't happen. There was pretty much no down time for me during the entire week. I do plan to write about a lot of the things that we did at camp, but that will have to wait for a bit.

I have never pushed myself so hard as I did at this camp. It was an awesome experience and I learned so much about cycling as well as myself. I experienced very high moments as well as very low moments, met lots of great people, had lots of laughs and was happy to be OUTDOORS on my bike.

More later...